The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
And Amy Adams gets robbed of a nomination by an Academy of numbskulls!!
Nocturnal Animals (Focus Features)
Written & Directed by Tom Ford
Nocturnal Animals feels like a 70’s thriller or some early 80’s Brian DePalma suspense shit, except without the suspense. The only thrills in the movie happen in the book. Not the book of the movie but the book inside the movie, which is way better than the real-life story. Amy Adams (winner for best actress on this blog) plays Susan Morrow, a gallery owner whose life is boring as hell. Her life is awful and so is this part of the movie. But she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband of his new novel. It’s good. It’s very good. It’s better than her life. The book is dramatized in the movie and those parts are better than the rest of the movie. They’re supposed to be. That’s the point.
But watching Nocturnal Animals so soon after seeing La La Land forced me to compare them because both films are about young artists in a romance. The one in this movie is told in flashbacks, adding a third running narrative to the film. And again it’s better than the main story. So even though I like Nocturnal Animals, this is one of those movies that I have to spoil to talk about it. But as an added bonus, I’m also going to spoil La La Land in the process. So this is a combination Spared/Spoiled/Film Comparison in one.
Verdict: SPOILED (for being too interesting): Nocturnal Animals
Verdict: SPOILED (by association): La La Land
I’m spoiling everything tonight.
SPOILER ALERT (for both Nocturnal Animals and La La Land)
First of all, she absolutely becomes her mother. Just like everyone says she would (including her mother). And I also liked the ending. It was poetic. I think I was waiting for the suspense to bleed over from the novel into the real world. And it never did. But Amy Adams is excellent as always. Jake Gyllenhaal is at his regular efficient automatic perfection. Seriously that guy pisses me off with how precise he is. I bet you every take is exactly the same with him. He’s a freaking robot.
Armie Hammer plays the same character in every movie. So he plays that same character again here. The man just looks like a douche. Surprise!! He’s a douche. And Michael Shannon gives a fine performance. I would talk about his nomination but frankly those fools don’t know shit. So it’s not much of an honor. But I liked it. Nocturnal Animals grew on me as the back story got interesting and the fictional story got interesting and I waited for the present story to get interesting and it never did. And that was the point. And I got it. And I liked it. So as Amy Adams is waiting there in the restaurant hoping to rekindle something with the guy who is now successful and he doesn’t show up. And that brilliant awkward last scene drags on, I was digging it. It reminded me of some Neil LaBute revenge porn (that guy’s got serious problems).
And every review I (actually) read seems to think that the characters of the wife and daughter in the novel represent her. But I don’t think so. I think she reads that into the story to make her boring existence seem worth a few pages. If anything she’s the three criminals. But yeah he makes himself the lead, weak and powerless to defend his wife and child in the story and she sees him as weak in the back story, but by standing her up in the end, he proves that he isn’t the weak romantic writer that she can manipulate. And his book is better than her life even though everybody dies in it (seriously it’s like some Shakespearean shit. Everyone dies at the end). So I guess he wins… at life.
Then of course, I imagined the ending of La La Land with only one of them being successful and not the other. (much less of a fairy tale). Because at the end of La La Land both the lovers are wildly successful and exactly where they want to be in life (like the most rags-to-riches depression era musical bull-shit) and it’s mostly due to the push each gives the other. You can say they sacrifice their love and life together for the other’s career and it works well for both.
Nocturnal Animals isn’t as sweet as all that. While in La La Land they inspire each other with tough love and support, in Nocturnal Animals, she inspires him with betrayal and he inspires her with revenge. It is… a lot more realistic (and nobody sings). Emma Stone ends up married with a successful career and no guilt about leaving her first real love (and an Oscar nomination). While Amy Adams ends up married to a cheater with a failing gallery and guilt over how she betrayed her first love (and no nomination for her work in Arrival). It’s not fair (but then again Trump is in power and fair is a fairy tale).
Ryan Gosling and Jake Gyllenhaal both get what they want so fuck ’em.
Nocturnal Animals is almost too atmospheric at times in the main story. There are a couple of good laughs from her silly artsy friends and co-workers. Especially when she blatantly insults the woman who had too much work done on her face. That was hysterical. Her artwork is awful. Her life is awful. Her husband is cheating. They are hemorrhaging money and her ex-husband writes this kick-ass book. That’s some potent revenge porn. Seriously, Neil LaBute must love this film.
But if she hadn’t broken his heart would he have been able to write his great American novel? Nocturnal Animals is a good story. But at times I thought it left a little too much on the table. Too atmospheric. Too strange. Too stylish. With wooden performances. Even though that was the point to make the novel more vibrant and more real than life. But because of it, it’s easy to separate the two and think that Nocturnal Animals is a movie about a boring woman reading a book, in the bed, in the tub, looking sexy… but still just reading. And then think the book in the movie is a better movie than the movie. But Nocturnal Animals is good. And it’s definitely worth a look if you’re like me and dated an artist who broke your heart. Or dated someone who didn’t believe in you. Because Nocturnal Animals is usually what you get. La La Land is the fantasy.
In conclusion, Nocturnal Animals is the ANTI-La La Land and I’m glad, because after the Oscar nominations I needed a sober dose of anti-romanticism. And Amy Adams, my love, I’m so sorry, but you got stood up again.